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It has been four years since David Letterman decided to retire from his late night position over at CBS, and it has been three years since the man ended his reign as the host of the Late Show with David Letterman. At the end of that reign, Letterman had hosted 6,028 episodes of the long-running show, a record that even beat that of his mentor Johnny Carson. In fact, he was on the late night airwaves for longer than any other late night host. Now, however, Letterman has revealed that he feels like he should have retired way earlier than he eventually did. During a recent Emmys event, Letterman said:
When you're in show business, it's so self-consuming and so egomaniacal that you only look at a very small focus, which is yourself. If you have the ability and the energy to do that, you should do it. But don't do it as long as I did. I did it too long. I should have left 10 years ago, because then I could have taken some of that energy and focus and applied it to actually doing something good for humans.
If David Letterman had retired in 2005 and not 2015, he wouldn't have hit that record number of episodes, although it's seemingly something he doesn't particularly care about. From what Letterman was saying in his conversation with Jerry Seinfeld (via Vanity Fair), he feels he would have been far better off if he had cut out of the game a bit earlier and focused on doing something else with his "energy and focus."
David Letterman had a lot of memorable moments on the Late Show with David Letterman over on CBS as well as his earlier late night series Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. Many of those happened earlier in his career, however, and the Late Show was never the winningest in late night viewers, although Letterman's legacy is still long-lasting and his final episode did quite well in the ratings.
These days, David Letterman has stepped back from the spotlight quite a bit, but he's still doing more than a little bit of talking. His Netflix show, My Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, has already had an auspicious start, kicking off with an interview with former President Barack Obama back in January. So far, Letterman has also spoken with a variety of big names, including George Clooney I am Malala's Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z and Tina Fey. He's set to speak with longtime radio host Howard Stern later this month.
Oh yeah, and he's grown out a mean beard, a beard he previously said everyone hates. Plus, he's done other small events, events like the Emmys chat or co-hosting The Essentials with Alec Baldwin for TCM. There are certainly worst things you can do with retirement than have a little fun, and that's what David Letterman seems to be doing these days... even if he feels he could have retired sooner. Perhaps he would have had more energy to do more elsewhere, but there's nothing wrong with leaving behind a late night legacy of Top 10 lists and stupid pet tricks.